The Next Step in Hosted

James Hennah, CEO BT Media & Broadcast & Director of Fixed & IDD, BT Wholesale spoke to Comms Business about his new role and how he plans to help partners growth ambitions in the hosted market.

Comms Business (CB): What excites you in the market right now?

James Hennah (JH): UC and the hosted environment are exciting areas right now and we have experienced a lot of growth in those areas this year. There is one UC feature from our portfolio I particularly like right now, the ability to move communications between devices all within the same call. We have been working hard with our customers to highlight this and it is starting to take off.

CB: Are customers demanding this from you now or are BT Wholesale still leading the conversation?

JH: We were definitely leading that conversation for a while but now customers are demanding this kind of functionality. Our Hosted Centrex offering has seen exponential growth this year because several of our customers are getting to a certain growth point where they recognise it’s difficult to take things further. A lot of customers tell me they have dabbled in the market, built a platform, grown to a certain size and now need to invest a big chunk of money to grow their capacity. They also recognise the need to keep an eye on the market as it develops, especially when it comes to OTT application services. Partners see this next phase as a Capex intensive growth period and they are looking to us to help them manage that moving forwards.

Partners should be asking themselves if they are best making that investment themselves or acting as sales and marketing agents. As a wholesale operation that’s what we do, we make big investments and then enable our partners to go out and add their own value and differentiation to then sell.

CB: How are your partners differentiating themselves?

JH: The main differentiators I see are in service: the wrap partners put around products and the experience they give to their customers. Offering a complete suite of packaged services such as SIP, Centrex, access, mobile, hosted desktop, storage or hosted space etc, is where the channel excels.

The SME market is still crying out for someone to manage all of those services for them as they are a critical part of their infrastructure. For the majority of SMEs out there if they don’t have a service like connectivity, for example, then their business simply isn’t trading well which can be incredibly damaging. Customers want someone they can rely on and trust to provide all of their services without having to be an expert in telecoms themselves, allowing them to concentrate on being experts in their own field.

CB: What are the biggest challenges facing the Channel right now?

JH: The biggest challenge I see is where some partners are purely voice or purely data focussed and then how they manage that convergence of skill sets. When you are providing the access and the voice over the top that is really powerful and that’s when partners end up building strong relationships with the SME. There is going to be a big change here and it will be interesting to see who finds it easier to adjust, the voice guys picking up the access leg or the access boys picking up the voice.

CB: How are you helping your partners with their growth aspirations?

JH: I am really keen to look at ways in which we can help our partners grow, particularly around TCO (total cost of ownership) and making BT Wholesale easier to do business with. We currently have lots of development going on around Business Zone, which is our portal, that enables us to deliver services far quicker than before.

The portal delivers a great customer experience and helps breed some loyalty with partners. Also in terms of delivering services it can be quicker to cash, i.e. the sooner partners can take orders and deliver services the sooner they can start billing.

CB: What other developments excite you outside of the comms market? 

JH: Outside of comms, and in the other part of my role at BT Wholesale, UHD and 4K are really starting to grow. BT has launched its own 4K channel and we are looking at producing a lot more content around BT Sport. There is a lot of training going on in post production and for camera men to film 4K. The picture is so detailed now you have to film it differently. In the first 4K trial we did of a rugby game you could see the individual hairs on players legs when they were in the scrum, it was too close and it took the focus away from the game! 4K is a really exciting space right now so I’m happy to be a part of it.


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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine